THIEVES OF PARADISE by Yusef Komunyakaa


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Princeton writing professor, Pulitzer winner, and the author of nine previous books, Komunyakaa writes like a man possessed—by art, music, memory, and by passions that transcend the resentment politics implied in this volume’s title. As much as he records those from the lost cultures thieved by the West—American Indians, Australian aborigines, African slaves, Vietnamese natives—Komunyakaa is more than a witness to history. His cinematic poems jump-cut through time, teasing out the larger truths of —rage and beatitude— in hard-boiled imagery of weapons and tools. His democratic vistas encompass not just like- minded poets—Whitman, Pavese, Langston Hughes—but the blood-beat of the given world. Komunyakaa discovers the forms necessary for his differing moods and subjects: Tumbling verse traces the palimpsests of Count Basie (—Balance—) and of an antique —Smoothing Iron—; the last survivor of an Indian tribe earns his quatrains (—Quatrains for Ishi—); Vietnam flashbacks require a prose phantasmagoria; and, his masterful sequence on Charlie Parker (—Testimony—) is a virtuoso jam of gorgeous sounds. Alliterative joy comes with —Blessing the Animals—; sex pumps up the heartbeats in —Rhythm Method—; and a dirty blues sequence wails the —No-Good Blues.— This ample volume, with its tough wit and bop frenzy, is recent American poetry at its visionary best.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8195-6330-7
Page count: 136pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1998


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